How to Improve Media Relations – Best & Worse Practices

Over eighty percent of journalists believe communication professionals should learn more about a media outlet before they pitch. You do not need to know them personally of course… Fortunately, there are useful ways and media tools that might help you improve your media relations.

The snarky folk claim that doing good media relations is like playing football on a minefield. Meanwhile, in my opinion, it’s more like trying to solve the world’s most popular logic game—Minesweeper. All you need is to stick to a few rules, know the right media relations tools and the game is won.

So how do you improve your media relations and win journalists’ hearts and make their work easier? Read on.

Understand who are you pitching

Nothing says, “I’m lazy” more than receiving an email pitch from someone pitching you on something you don’t cover. Once you have read the press release, you will know the relevant titles for a particular media list. [Editorial note: If you don’t have your own media contact base, you can get relevant media contacts with Prowly]. If this is the first time you’re sending out a press release to a certain publication, do your research. Open their website and see where the story could fit. Who are the journalists writing similar articles?

In such a relationship, it is worth taking care of the details. Is the journalist an urban activist? Do not suggest topics related to a difficult investment. He/she will probably write about it, but certainly not in the context your boss/client would appreciate. Are you planning to invite journalists to participate in a meat producers event? Don’t reach out to journalists who promote vegetarianism in social media.

If you’ve created a media list, include notes in the document to help you remember what you discovered, and don’t forget to update them often.

Focus on the right people

Those with some experience in the PR industry remember the times when doing “media relations” meant actually meeting journalists to chat over coffee. Nope, there’s not much time left for such activities: there are more and more titles on the media market (which means more journalists to contact), and PR specialists no longer have to simply nurture their relationships with journalists—now they must also take on the role of a business advisor, marketer, media planner, and a journalist/content specialist. You know what I’m talking about.

You don’t need to know the most people, just the right people. Focus on fortifying relationships with the media and influencers that really matter to your brand. Automatic contact search is not bad – it can be helpful. Often, PRs use the media base. Remember to search contacts according to a certain key. It’s a big access to contacts – don’t miss that chance.

Make notes – details are everything in building valuable relations

Not only will this help you keep track of all your interactions with each of your contacts, but it will also give your team some hints on who’s speaking with who about what. This is particularly useful for teams working with the same media lists.

Tip #1: If a journalist you’re in contact with is going on holiday next month, make a note of this fact so that next time you speak with him or her, you’ll remember to ask how the trip was.
Tip #2: Did you see an interesting journalist’s tweet that matches the topic you wrote to him? Save it and start with a glowing e-mail.
Tip #3: You can easily add notes, tags, and team comments by using a PR CRM (a tool for managing your media relations)

Things that can disqualify you immediately

You get in touch with a journalist who gets 1,000 messages a day. Technology makes it easy to communicate on a mass scale in no time, but, unfortunately, such communication is rarely personalized. There are several things that can get you barred immediately:

  1. You don’t visit the journalist’s website to see what he or she write about and customize your pitch appropriately.
  2. When you suggest a topic that concerns something the journalist doesn’t write about and/or he or she has never even heard of you.
  3. The content you want journalists to publish has already been published elsewhere—or it fails our plagiarism check (you’d be surprised).

Read also: Gini Dietrich: Six Tips for Pitching Journalists and Bloggers

Public relations writing and media techniques

Let’s assume that “we are implementing a new certification system.” The journalist has covered/recorded everything fairly. And now he or she is working to finalize the story and… wonders “what did this guy mean?” If the journalist can’t understand it, the viewer/reader surely won’t understand it either. The best media relations practice is that the journalist calls and asks for clarification, or nothing of what we have said will be included in the story, thus resulting in a lost publication opportunity. However, this is not the end of potential problems. The journalist can take on the role of an interpreter him-/herself. If we put too much pressure on his/her nerves—you won’t get another phone call.

A good subject, proper research, well-prepared materials, interesting language (both spoken and written), these are the basic success factors when it comes to good media relations with the journalists we meet. Even a real information grenade may prove to be an unlocked one if it’s served the wrong way. In the era of the Internet and social media, checking every piece of information does not take more than 5–10 minutes. This time it is invested in a relationship with a journalist who can often do more than return the favor. You want to improve your public relations writing techniques? Take these tips into consideration.

Check, check and check again to build good media relations

Once you have the press release, the media list, and the email pitch ready and approved, you are pretty much ready to go. Make sure you triple-check for any grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. Are you sending it to the right journalist? Also, make sure the time is good for sending press releases. I have learned that the best time is between Monday afternoon and Thursday morning. If possible, try not to send out any emails on Friday (unless the deadline for a journalist’s request is on that day).

Stay in control of your media contacts with a CRM for PR

It’s tempting to send pitch emails from Gmail or Outlook, but what you lose is a trackability. You want to follow-up effectively without knowing if they’ve even opened your email?

Really?

Journalists hate such questions as “did you get my e-mail” and it can hurt your relationships.

By using a PR CRM you can stay in control of your media contacts; see who read your press release, opened your email, or didn’t receive your email at all. It makes the follow-up process much easier and you can confidently send another email instead of asking “did you get my e-mail”.

Conclusion – how to improve media relations

Building good media relations can be summed up with these 5 steps:

  • Figure out which journalists will be interested in your story and find their contact details
  • Leave your team some notes on who’s speaking with who about what
  • Choose a good subject, interesting language (both spoken and written) and be prepared
  • Make sure you triple-check for any grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes
  • Make use of a PR CRM to stay in control of your relations with important media contacts